Back in the day when I was in elementary school, all it took was for somebody to push someone in the coat room or stick out their tongue, they would be ready to fight, but they kept their cool because they knew they would get them at recess. As the clock ticked tock, you could feel the tension building in the classroom, and they couldn’t wait to get to the playground.
Then the clock on the wall struck 11:00 am, and it was time for recess. Everyone in the classroom knew what was about to go down, but no one ever told the teacher because unless they were in the fight, they had nothing to worry about.
Once outside, the crowd would gather around, edging on the fight. They would circle a few times, and the crowd would grow impatient, so the fighters would begin to play the dozens, a game of put-downs: exchange of insults often targeting family members, and when that didn’t get the fight started, there was always an instigator in the crowd who would put a pencil or a block of wood on the shoulder of the stronger one and say, “I dare you to knock it off!”
It didn’t matter what the fight was about. It was a fight. Most of the time, the ones that had the disagreement didn’t want to fight, but peer pressure can make you do some dumb things. And in those days, the crowd didn’t have anything to fear. The crowd never got smaller. If anything, it grew, and they were determined to see a fight. Chanting, ‘fight, fight, fight. Bystanders never got hurt. The only people in danger were the ones being encouraged to fight.
You see, when I was a kid, kids got into fist fights, teachers and parents got together, and would give a small lecture, and made kids apologize to each other. And they would live to see another day as John Witherspoon so nicely put it in the movie Friday. What the adults were doing was teaching kids how to handle conflict.
Unfortunately, in this day and time, people don’t know how to handle conflict. Grandma is not around, daddy is not around, and momma is not around. They have no clue that every conflict can have a peaceful solution and the importance of talking once and listening twice. They don’t learn how to attack the problem and not the person, nor do they learn how to manage their emotions or even to just walk away. No one is there to encourage them to hug it out.
Maybe that’s it! There are not enough hugs and love to go around, and instead of putting something in their head, they are putting guns in their hands and telling them this is how conflicts are resolved with a revolver.
Bullets don’t have eyes. They end lives. I know guns don’t kill people; people do, and they do it with guns.
So, the next time you can teach a child about conflict or a disagreement, help them think of different ways to solve their problem. Teach them how to compromise and how to find a win-win solution. I know it’s hard to teach the children when the children are watching the adults who don’t know how to let it go.
Many people are out here like ticking time bombs and seconds away from losing their temper, and they may never make it to recess or off the playground.